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The Birth of an Empire

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As early as she could remember, Edna followed her mother to work every day, as there wasn't enough money to pay for someone else to watch her. And besides, the actors and actresses did a fine job of looking out for her when they weren't onstage. Not, perhaps, the best role models, looking back on it, but they were loyal, and entertaining, and they doted on her.

Her mother worked backstage, sewing the costumes for the actresses. She had two stitchers working beneath her, but she did all of the designing and important bits herself. When the show was on, Edna would sit and watch her mother. Sometimes she would be sitting at the table, sketching out new ideas for gorgeous gowns and sparkling dresses. Sometimes she would measure and cut up fabric, and Edna would daringly reach out and touch the bolts, learning the feel of silk, satin, and wool long before she knew the words for them.

But most of the time, Edna's mother sewed; one long pin sticking out from between her pursed lips, and her short fingers flicking quickly in a dance of thin thread and shining needle and slick fabric. Those moments held Edna in a fascinated thrall, as she watched the costume develop from start to finish. Right before her eyes all of the separate parts came together beneath her mother's fingers and became a finished product. Something amazing, that always fit perfectly, and looked absolutely fantastic in front of the old foot lamps on the stage.


All of her life, Edna swore that she was going to be a costume designer too, just like her mother. She was going to take those designs out of her mind and transfer them through quick fingers and into a finished masterpiece. She knew everything there was to know about the theatre, and the new Hollywood sensation known as film. And if she had to deal with actors who thought they knew better, and patrons who cut her budget, and directors who wanted something simpler, then she would.

Then, when she was nineteen, Edna met a superhero.

She was walking home from the bar with a couple of actresses she was living with, after a long night at the theatre, when a dirty, scruffy man slipped out of the shadows. He held a knife and demanded that they hand over their purses. The girls were about to comply when another man ran down the street and clocked the mugger. His suit was bright red, down to the tie, and he had a thin scrap of cloth across his face, with two little slits cut for his eyes.

"You should be careful walking around this late at night," he informed them, after trussing up the would-be mugger. "I'll wait for the police to come get this man, but you should hurry home."

They did as they were told, and soon the excitement of the evening had waned, coaxing the other women to bed. Edna, however, found that she couldn't sleep. She had read the news stories, of course, about how some crooks were dressing up in costumes to disguise their identity. And how some police officers and good Samaritans were doing the same. There were even rumors that some had extra special powers, like being very fast, or super strong. But Edna had never thought about that in practical, theatrical terms before. This was a whole group of people who needed costumes. They needed specialized outfits that would not interfere with their crime-fighting or powers or whatever they had. And they had to look good.

This was perfect for her!

This was what she had always wanted to do! Not simple theatre designing, which many women and a few men did. But this! This was her chance to make a name for herself. To merge art and costume in a way that most theatre designers had only ever dreamed of! To be the only one! To have complete control over her own artistic vision! She could be the official costumer of the super heroes, and her name would be spread far and wide through the law enforcement and world saving communities.

This was her chance to bring her vision to the masses. And maybe to thank the man who had saved her.


He was her first customer, the one who had saved them. She had a great memory for bodies, and a wonderful eye for measurements. She made the designs from memory, in the red he seemed to prefer, and returned to the alley in the wee hours of the morning.

It wasn't long before her red-clad hero to come loping down the street. "It isn't safe out here, Miss," he declared, stopping in front of her.

"I know. But I have something for you." Edna declared. "You will follow me now."

She turned smartly on her heel and began to walk back to the theatre, expecting that he would follow. To her internal amusement, after a moment he did obediently fall into line. She hustled him back to the theatre, where she had set a mannequin onstage and dressed it in the new costume.

"You sit!" she pointed at the plush red chairs in the house as she hurried over to where the lights were. She threw the breaker and one of the large spotlights flicked on with a thunk. It illuminated the costume in a most fantastically dramatic way.

"What is that?" her hero asked after a moment.

Edna hustled back towards him. "That is your new costume. Far more fashionable than your current one. Also the mask has wider eyeholes, so you can see things coming from the side. And a cape. Capes are dramatic. They make a statement."

"I, I don't understand," he hesitated. "You made all this for me? Why?"

"You saved us the other night, darling," Edna reminded him. "And for that you will wear my first masterpiece! Now try it on! Go, go!"

Bemused, the masked man allowed her to pull him out of his seat and push him up onto the stage. "So, you just made this for me?" he managed to ask as she quickly changed him.

"Of course, darling! There's no need to thank me!"


That night, a more confident Red Apple left her little theatre. The next night The Greengrocer tentatively knocked on the stage door. He was followed the next night by The Nightstick, and then Street Justice.

And within a week the theatre was looking for a new costume designer, and an empire was born.